10 things to do before you turn 23

Me at graduation in June!

I turned 23 in March which means 2017 is my MJ year.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably already graduated from college and are embarking on post-grad adulthood.

Before turning 23, I started making small changes that have significantly impacted my well-being.

As I reflect on the first half of 2017, I’d like to share with you a list of 10 things I’ve done before I turned 23.

1. Stop comparing yourself to other people

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Theodore Roosevelt

I was surrounded by peers who were ambitious, talented, and successful. I looked to them as people I aspired to be. Their passion to make an impact in the world made me want to do more. But, I never compared myself to them. I’m a firm believer of the fact that we define our own success and everyone reaches success at their own pace. Throughout college, my goal was never to be better than the person next to me. My goal has always been to be the best person I could be and invest all of my efforts into doing that. It’s human nature to want to compare yourself to other people (trust me, I’m very competitive) but the sooner you stop obsessing over someone else’s success, the sooner you’ll be able to focus on your own successes.

2. Break unhealthy habits

Whether it’s late-night munchies or too much caffeine (guilty), we all need to start investing in our mental, physical, and financial health. Like, right now. We’re not 16 anymore — we can’t eat 20 pieces of McNuggets everyday and still have a six pack. (Unless you work out like crazy everyday, then, mad props to you. 🙌) It may seem tough especially when you turn 21 and go through a late-night-meal-eating phase followed by the inevitable binge-drinking phase. How do I know this? Because I’ve been there and done that more time than I’d like to admit.

I’m also guilty of buying random sh*t from the internet and being too lazy to return it after I realize they bring me no value. No matter what your unhealthy habits are, it’s time to start breaking them. This doesn’t have to happen overnight. The key is to ween off each unhealthy addiction little by little. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. 😉

3. Distance yourself from toxic relationships

Hopefully at this point in your life, you have a few people/person you know who will always have your back. Life will always get in the way of you forming new relationships but I believe that there will always be opportunities to meet new people and make new friends. As we grow older, our views of the world will change. If you suddenly feel like some people around you are not helping you grow to the person you want to be, then maybe it’s time to rethink your relationship. Breaking up from friends, family, and partners will always be hard, but, at the end of the day, you have to look out for yourself.

4. Set (realistic) yearly goals

I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to settle. That’s why every time I cross off a goal, I always set a new one. It gives me something to work towards and keeps me motivated. Some of my goals for 2017 are:

  • ✅ Graduate
  • ✅ Get a job
  • ✅ Exercise at least 3 days a week, every week
  • Spend less money on clothes than the previous year (working on it)
  • Eat out less no more than 2 days a week (also still working on it)
  • Read 6 books by the end of the year (2 down)

These goals should be realistic and achievable — which means you should specify the details of each one. If my exercise goal was instead “exercise more”, then it’s a little nebulas and I’m less likely to work towards meeting it.

5. Try something new

We’re still young. We are capable of taking risks.
Now that we have graduated and have stability in our lives, we can finally make time to try new things. That’s why I decided to take up writing this year. I’ve always wanted to be a blogger but can’t find the time to commit to taking high-quality photos. I wanted to discover my voice and find an avenue where I can express my thoughts by creating interesting content first. I guess the “risky” part of this venture for me is writing content that people don’t want to read. In addition to writing on Medium, I also write for a platform called VINAZINE.

6. Travel

If you’ve saved enough money or have the opportunity to travel or study abroad, go. Studying abroad in Shanghai and Beijing my Sophomore year was the best decision I ever made. Not only did I get to experience different cultures, it was also the time when I decided to pursue Design as a career. The program I was a part of in Beijing introduced me to the world of Product Design and I’ve never looked back since. I also had the opportunity to visit Europe for the very first time in December as well as back to Japan with a good friend of mine. When you travel, you open yourself up to new cultures, new experiences, and new memories. These opportunities will be harder to come by as we get busier, so travel when you can!

7. Reconnect with your parents

As an only child to a single mom, it was tough for me to find time to connect with my mom during college. After going through a whirlwind my first two years of college, I had focused my attention on performing well in school. It took me a while to realize how lonely my mom was without me. Sometimes we can be consumed by how fast-paced our lives are. As we age, our parents age too. It’s a terrifying reality that we have to face. Take it from someone who has experienced loss — hug your parents, call them more often, tell them you love them. Don’t wait for a special occasion, you don’t need a reason — just do it, right now.

8. Take care of your mental health

Mental health can be a touchy subject but an important one. If you ever feel like it’s becoming more difficult to be happy, it’s never too early to start taking steps in creating a peaceful state of mind. For example, I went through my Instagram profile and unfollowed “Instagram models” and people who I don’t really have a relationship with anymore. I know the IG models part sounds a little silly but it’s actually made me a lot happier.

I realized that I was comparing myself (#1) to the people I saw on social media. Constantly asking myself why I didn’t look a certain way or had this much fun in my life. I realized that I wasn’t living my life according to my needs but instead doing it to prove to people on social media how fabulous my life was/is. I stopped posting on social media — very few pictures on Instagram, no updates on Facebook, and still haven’t changed my title on LinkedIn. Once I did this, I found myself less dependent on social media and less interested in what other people were doing. I started to find joy in the things (big and small) in my life and reached a better state of mind.

9. Let go of your ego

I went into my last year of college thinking that it would be a breeze. It’s safe for me to say that it was a huge mistake to make that assumption. It can be hard to turn back after getting a taste of success (however you define it), but I let my ego get the best of me. After a string of roadblocks, It became difficult for me to internalize everything that went wrong and easier to just focus on a new opportunity. I had to get myself out of a depressing slump because once your ego has been hurt, it can impact your state of mind and how you perceive yourself. Here’s what I learned from my lessons:

  • Never give up
  • Don’t think you’re not as valuable as you know you are
  • Never assume you deserve something you didn’t work for

10. Do things that make you happy

So what if you weren’t able to graduate with the major you wanted? So what if you didn’t get your dream job after graduation? The best part about post-grad adulthood is that it’s the beginning of a new chapter. You’re done with school and you’re ready to move on. You get to reinvent yourself in the way that makes you happy. I stopped focusing on doing things to impress people and found friends who value the same things I do. I started working on things that make me happy (writing, reading, trying new foods). There’s so many ways to occupy your time now, and it’s up to you to make the most of it. Don’t spend time doing things that you don’t like and do more of what you love.